$9,848 - $11,945

2010 Acura TL Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2010 Acura TL was new.


Performance: 8.1

Reviewers appear to treat the Acura TL as two different cars. The base model is a front-wheel-drive sedan competing, on price, with a dozen or so rear-wheel-drive sport sedans. It features electronic-steering that many reviewers consider too light. It makes a comfortable commuter car and family sedan, but it isn’t meant for high-performance driving. The press treats the SH-AWD model, on the other hand, as a performance car. Its unique all-wheel-drive system helps to steer the car -- something no other car at this price point offers. Test drivers love its steady grip and sharp cornering capability. 

It’s important for buyers, however, to be honest with themselves about their needs. That AWD system adds thousands of dollars to the price tag -- all for something that impresses magazine writers in track testing, but matters little on a daily commute. A few reviewers have even called its wet-weather performance disappointing. Those who genuinely need an all-wheel-drive snow car might be better suited driving an Audi A4 or a well-equipped Subaru Legacy.

  • "Ample power, quick responses, decent grip, and strong braking are diluted by numb steering. But not much.” -- Car and Driver
  • "Given the divergent handling characteristics of the 2010 Acura TL models, they can almost be thought of as two distinctly different cars." -- Edmunds
  • "It strikes a nice compromise for both cruising through town and scurrying down a twisty back road. -- Road and Track

Acceleration and Power

Base versions of the TL feature a 3.5-liter V6 engine making 280 horsepower. SH-AWD editions carry a larger, 3.7-liter V6 making 305 horsepower. Reviewers, however, say the two provide nearly identical acceleration. The extra 25 hp of the SH-AWD serves to offset that car’s heavier weight, but not to make it any faster. Both versions are well-liked, offering a nice balance of power and quiet refinement. 

A five-speed automatic transmission is standard. Reviewers have little to say about it. A six-speed manual transmission is new for the 2010 model year. Only a few reviewers have spent any time in manual-equipped TLs, but they seem to have walked away impressed. 

The EPA says that front-wheel drive TLs should get 18 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway, while AWD versions should get 17/25 mpg -- meaning that there is little mileage penalty for the well-liked AWD system.

  • “Despite the SH-AWD's horsepower advantage, acceleration is virtually identical to the base TL. In recent testing, both models reached 60 mph from a standstill in 6.7 seconds.” -- Edmunds
  • “The manual transmission is a delight, providing slick shifts and an easy-to-modulate clutch.” -- Consumer Guide
  • "The snarl of the V-6 strikes a nice balance between refinement and sportiness, racing from a stop to 60 miles an hour in 6 seconds, according to Car and Driver, while returning 25 miles a gallon on the highway - though a rather unfortunate 17 m.p.g. in town." -- New York Times
  • "We started our drive in the base TL, where we were concerned about 280 hp and 254 lb-ft of torque flowing to the front wheels. But cranking the wheel and stomping on the gas elicited only minor tugging at the wheel. Of course, torque steer is not a factor for the SH-AWD, which can send up to 70 percent of its power to the rear wheels." -- Automobile Magazine

 Handling and Braking

Where handling is concerned, there are two entirely different cars sold under the Acura TL name. 

The front-wheel-drive base model is a comfortable commuter car that will easily meet the day-to-day needs of most drivers; but it isn’t built to win performance comparisons in car magazines. Shoppers should compare it to other front-wheel drive entry-level luxury sedans, like the Lincoln MKZ or Lexus ES

The SH-AWD model, on the other hand, is designed to compete with performance-oriented cars like the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4. It uses an advanced all-wheel-drive system that actually helps to steer the car, varying the speed of each wheel separately in order to help point the car into turns. Reviewers say it offers a phenomenal amount of grip on dry roads, but may not give the wet-road performance some buyers are seeking in an all-wheel-drive vehicle. 

Even the brakes are different between the two models. The base TL’s brakes offer acceptable stopping power, but the brakes on the SH-AWD model outperform what many competitors can do.

  • “It's only when you're looking for a truly engaging driving experience that the base model will disappoint, especially since its steering is numb and not particularly communicative. … In Edmunds brake testing, the base TL came to a stop from 60 mph in an average 122 feet. The SH-AWD came to a stop in an exceptional 106 feet" -- Edmunds
  • "Base TLs are comfortable tourers, especially on the open road. They feel lighter on their feet than their racier all-wheel-drive sibling, which checks in about 250 pounds heavier. SH-AWD models with the automatic transmission border on performance-car stiff due to overly firm suspension damping and hard tires. Manual-transmission models have slightly different suspension tuning that improves ride quality." -- Consumer Guide
  • "I won't pretend that I fully exploited the system on public roads, but on long highway on-ramps the TL SH-AWD simply hangs in and goes where you point it, sometimes making the car feel as if it is cheating physics. And cheating physics is fun." -- New York Times
  • "The TL SH-AWD edition feels more responsive, thanks to tighter EPS tuning, firmer springs and shocks, larger wheels and tires (standard 18s versus 17s on the base car), and the added kick of the unique all-wheel-drive system, which can actively speed up the outside rear wheel to help point the car into turns." -- Motor Trend
  • "The main reason to pay extra for all-wheel drive is handling, not winter driving capability....the AWD TL's road-gripping power, however, doesn't help you in the snow. Ice builds up and clogs the narrow wheel wells. The low-profile performance tires don't grab during braking and acceleration. I took my test car out on unplowed roads after a five-inch snowfall and at one point I slid down an icy hill through a stop sign and onto a highway (luckily there was no other traffic at the time)." -- Business Week

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